God’s Ways Are Always Higher

Standard

stc

Do you ever look back at your life and thank God for it? I don’t just mean the good times in life, but also the awful times you thought would never end. We should never question the rhyme and reason of God’s plan for us. I know it is hard not to at times. But we just need to know that God does have a plan for us. No matter what we are going through right at this moment, even if it is something that is tearing us up inside, there is a reason for it and one day it will all make sense. Just not now. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55: 9).

I recently experienced one of those moments when the rhyme and reason to God’s plan came full circle. I was filled with such joy at the beauty of it that I could not hold back the tears. I would like to share my story with you. I hope my story encourages you to keep going in the face of adversity. There is light at the end of whatever you are going through and it will be greater than anything you could ever have imagined. Trust God’s plan!

It all began in Boston. Our first two children were born there. My husband lost his job and got another one, but it was in New York City. Unfortunately, we could not sell our home so my husband was commuting, which was difficult for our family. A good friend told me to bury a statue of Saint Joseph in our backyard to help sell the house. I was a lapsed Catholic at the time, but I figured why not give it a shot. We went to a Bodega to get one. But the man at the Bodega warned, “You don’t bury Saints!” He told us to instead put up a picture of Saint Joseph over the top of our front door and make a promise to him. We followed his instructions and promised Saint Joseph we would raise our children to be Christians. A week later we sold the house! That’s the truth!

We moved to New York and went on to have three more children there. What about our promise to Saint Joseph? It fell by the wayside. We broke our promise. I can almost imagine that stoic Latino gentleman from the Boston Bodega warning, “You don’t break promises to Saints!” I bet he would have hit me over the head if he had known what we did. We broke our promise big time! We actually got introduced to Buddhism in New York and raised our children more Buddhist than Christian. Along the way, all kinds of terrible things were happening to us financially and my husband lost his second and then his third job. It was a total nightmare! It was then that we decided to move to Florida. We just got up and moved.

It must have been divine intervention that brought us to Florida. I don’t know how else to explain it. Don’t get me wrong, it has not all been a bed of roses or should I say palm trees for us here. Financially, we continue to struggle. But Florida opened up unexpected avenues for our children to thrive. It is here where our children discovered their passion for music. Our children ended up attending schools with wonderful band directors who encouraged them to pursue their musical dreams. You have to realize that my husband and I are not musical at all. We have less than zero musical talent. So where does our children’s passion and talent for music come from? It comes from God. It is utterly amazing that 4 out of our 5 children plan to pursue careers in music.

Also while living in Florida I returned to my Catholic faith. My husband along with 4 out of our 5 children have already come home to the Catholic faith with me. But our promise to Saint Joseph back in Boston was that all 5 of our children would be raised as Christians. We still had one more to go!

This brings me to our oldest son, Felix Jr., the last one in our family to come home to the Catholic faith. In his final semester as an undergrad student, he experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity. (That is a story for another day.) Our prayers were answered. Felix Jr. moved from an outright staunch Agnostic to a Christian almost overnight. It was a miracle! His conversion story actually reminds me so much of the conversion of Saul. “Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained sight” (Acts 9). Our son had been that child who would get seriously irritated if you even brought up a conversation about religion. He wanted to be left alone on all matters of religion. But God had bigger plans for him than he or even I had ever even imagined.

Prior to his conversion, Felix Jr. had auditioned for one of the most prestigious music schools in the country for Graduate School, the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC). He got accepted! And where is this music school located? It is in Boston! God was sending him right back to the place of his birth; back to the place where my husband and I made our promise to Saint Joseph all those years ago. Prior to heading off to grad school Felix Jr. looked up Catholic Churches near NEC and found that the closest one is Saint Cecilia’s parish. Saint Cecilia is the patroness of music! Praise be to God!

In August of 2017, we moved our son into NEC. While in Boston we attended mass with him at Saint Cecilia’s Church. During the priest’s homily, tears of joy welled up in my eyes as the realization of God’s plan and greatness hit me. I thought, wow! Our oldest son, our last child to come home to the faith of my ancestors is going to be confirmed in the very city where we made our promise to Saint Joseph. Not only that, but he is going to be confirmed in the Catholic faith in a Church named after the patroness of music! Could God have written a better script? All glory and honor to Him forever!

In reading this story, I hope it provides a glimmer of hope. No matter what we are going through God does have a plan for all of us and we just need to get out of His way and let Him work His wonders in our lives. It will all be clear one day and we just need to have faith it that.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Saint Cecilia, pray for us.

Advertisements

Too Many Pharoahs Not Enough Saints

Standard

yul-brynner-as-rameses-in-the-ten-commandments

“Who is the LORD, that I should heed his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5: 2).

Who could possibly forget Yul Brynner’s portrayal of Pharoah Ramesses in the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments? His portrayal of this self-absorbed egoist with a heart of stone is just how I picture Pharoah written about in the Book of Exodus. Is there a message for us today?

Scripture is the inspired word of God. In his book, The Father Who Keeps His Promises, Scott Hahn says Scripture is God’s long love letter to us (Pg 10). Have we forgotten that our Heavenly Father calls us to His loving arms? The Bible calls us to remember. Our familial relationship with our Creator was severely damaged as a result of original sin. Paragraph 397 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church sheds light on this. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command.” That is precisely why Biblical stories like the Exodus story continue to reverberate throughout the ages. In our hearts, we do not truly know the LORD.

Do you know the LORD? In Hebrew, the word “know” is translated as “yada,” which is a term that implies a covenant relationship between family members (Hahn, 65). God wants us to know Him as our loving Father. But do we? It says in the Book of Exodus that Pharoah did not know the LORD. The Egyptians did not know the LORD. The Israelites did not know the LORD either. After 400 years in bondage, even God’s chosen people did not know the LORD. Moses is sent by God to free His chosen people not just from slavery, but also from their pagan idolatry so they could once again know the LORD.

Pharoah will not let the people go. In Exodus 7-12, the LORD sends ten plagues. We read about things like the Nile River turning to blood, flies swarming, livestock dying, and darkness falling upon the land. Prior to sending the plagues, the LORD said to Moses, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you” (Exodus 7: 4). But why would God harden the heart of the Pharaoh? Doesn’t he want to save everyone? Yes! He does! The plagues are meant to serve a pedagogical purpose for all the nations including us today.

After each plague, we see that either Pharaoh’s heart hardened or that God hardened his heart (Exodus 7-14). Pharoah would not listen. He did not know the LORD. Are we any different today? Have you encountered any modern day Pharoahs? We see ourselves as the commander in chief par excellence of our own life. We think we are in control. We do not know the LORD. We are Pharoahs who drive fancy chariots down roads paved with gold and back-breaking sweat in a material world where our worth is solely determined by what we own or what we wear on our back. We give no glory to God. We give credit to ourselves, whom we worship above all. We do not know the LORD.

There truly are too many Pharaohs and not enough Saints. We are not in control and all glory and honor should go to the LORD. The plagues hit us hard and often when we don’t know the LORD. If you are going through troubling times, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I know the LORD?” Do you have a loving relationship with your Heavenly Father? That is the pedagogical purpose of the plagues! God wants to be in a familial relationship with us. He wants to be our loving Father.

When the plagues of life hit us, will we harden our hearts or will we fall on our knees to pray and listen to the LORD? Let’s embrace the plagues in our life for what they really are? They are invitations from God to grow in relationship with Him so that we may truly know Him. All we need to do is pick up our cross and carry it into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and ask Him for the grace to know Him.

Even Miracles Take a Little Time

Standard

How+to+wake+up+from+a+spiritual+slumber+-+shegznstuff

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”  Ecclesiastes 3:1.

God tells us that everything has a time (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8). But what is time? Is it the ticking clock that reminds us time stands still for no one? Time seems very real to us. Maybe we mark time by the passage of the seasons or by yet another wrinkle appearing on our face. On the other hand, there are physicists out there who have concluded that time is an illusion. It may not even exist at all? While we may not be experts in the field of quantum mechanics, we probably sense the very real possibility of this. Perhaps time as we know it is nothing more that a product of a conscious mind trying to make sense of the material world.

Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t answer your prayers in what you consider to be a timely manner? It seems that even in our prayer life, we want immediate gratification. We don’t like to wait. We put a time schedule on our infinite God. A very dear friend said something to me once that got me thinking about time. She simply told me that God doesn’t perceive time the same way we do. Ten years for us is but a fleeting moment for God. A second is no different than a millennium to God. This makes perfect sense as God lives in the realm of spirit where time is eternal with no beginning or end. We, on the other hand, live in the physical world where time is based on our finite mind. In 2 Peter, we’re reminded that God’s perspective on time is different from our own. “… with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Here in the material world, we tend to think of time in a linear way. We’re born. We grow up. We age. We die. That is our experience. Even salvation history is laid out in a linear fashion. That’s because God communicates salvation history to us in a way that we can understand it here on earth. But for a moment let’s try to see time on God’s terms. We read in Ecclesiastes, “That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away” (3:15). In other words, God already knows what has been and what will be. That’s why our omniscient God knows what’s best for us. So, when our prayers don’t get answered in accordance with our time tables there is a reason for it. And if our prayers don’t get answered at all, it means answering them would’ve driven us further away from God. Initially, the sin of Adam and Eve drove us away from God. As sinners, we don’t always pray for what is best for the salvation of our souls. But God wants us to be with Him for all eternity. God’s time, not ours!

Everything has a time. As Cinderella’s fairy Godmother told her, “Even miracles take a little time.” Let’s practice trusting in God’s timing. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight” (Proverbs 3:5). At the end of our prayers, let’s remember our Lady’s obedience to God. She is a perfect role model. Not my will, but your will. “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:37). Let’s pray to have faith like the mother of our Lord. God is sure to hear that prayer.

John 3:16

Standard

john-3-16-jesus-red-circle-decal

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, as we scroll through our social media feeds on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, we can certainly sense that love is in the air. Loving couples of all kinds, the young and the old are sharing their love with the digital world. It’s very good to see all the love in the world. I think to myself, we need more of that.

Perhaps we can also take a moment today to thank Almighty God for our ability to love. God is love. He’s the ultimate lover! He created the entire universe out of nothing in a big bang of love that is unfathomable to even the most intelligent of us. God didn’t need to create the universe. It didn’t do a thing for Himself. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He doesn’t need anything. That means He created the universe in a pure act of selfless love.

God also created us in his own image and likeness. God is love. We are love. God loves. We love. But we’ve got to be careful with this thing called love. Remember that it is God’s love that will heal the world, not the inferior love of men so prevalent in our times. Sin entered the lives of men. Tainted love appeared and overtook our lives. This is a selfish love. A love that loves “self” above all things. We love others as long as they serve our purposes. It’s an exchange kind of love. I will do for you as long as you do for me. This isn’t God’s love.

Trouble will inevitably arise when we love “self” above others. Just look around and you will see evidence in the modern world that man loves himself more than the planet. He loves himself more than the poor. He loves himself more than his neighbor. We’ve all got this kind of narcissistic love running through our veins at different levels. We need to be ever vigilant in order to overcome this sinful nature to love our own “self” more than others.

To love like God we need to lay down our lives for others. We need to put the needs of others before our own. This is not some kind of altruistic love where we get some kind of “feel good” vibes in return. In other words, don’t love others to get something out of it. Do it out of pure love just like God when He created the universe. We all know this isn’t easy. The best of us fail from time to time. We can’t let that bring us down. We’ve just got to get up and love again. Let John 3:16 be our motivation. That is love!

So, on this Valentine’s Day, let’s remember to thank God, our master teacher in love for setting the perfect example for us to follow. Then let’s go and do it!

Science & Religion Collide? Ever heard of Monsignor Georges Lemaître?

Standard

science-and-religion-shutterstock_137711477

Our culture provides a blueprint for living. It shapes us, forms us and consumes us. Every person on the planet is formed by culture. According to anthropologist Ralph Linton, “The last thing a fish would ever notice is the water.” So it is with us. We’re swimming (or sinking) in an individualistic, relativistic, increasingly secular, God is dead culture that is often unseen. The problem is that this often unseen culture can undermine our faith. In this post, I specifically address the God vs. science lie.

Secular culture portrays science and religion as natural enemies. In school, we learn about great minds such as Sir Isaac Newton. We memorize the laws of motion for exams and marvel that Newton created Calculus before the age of 25. I find it more interesting what we don’t learn. We leave out the backstory. We don’t learn anything about Newton’s deep faith in God. Newton actually wrote more on theology than on science. He even learned how to read Hebrew in order to read the Old Testament in its original language. His scientific discoveries were driven by fervent faith and his desire to understand God whom he saw as the perfect mathematician of the universe. The irony here is that his discoveries far from revealing God to the world had the opposite effect. God is dead, proclaimed Nietzsche in the late 1800s. Some people took the discoveries of people like Newton to develop the notion that physical laws rather than divine providence govern the universe. So rather than placing God everywhere, Newton’s discoveries placed God in jeopardy.

Fast-forward to today and we see the lasting impact of this. Not only does our culture promote the idea that science and religion collide, but it also tells us that between the two science is far superior and only a simpleton could believe otherwise. Recently, a student of mine told the class he was surprised that Pope Francis came out in support of the big bang. He thought it was a good sign the Church was “finally” starting to come around. I was quick to inform him that a Catholic priest by the name of Monsignor Georges Lemaître actually discovered the big bang. The class seemed utterly surprised by this. Why? It was a moment of cognitive dissonance for them. This is contrary to what they’ve been raised to believe.

To be sure, powerful agents of socialization such as the media play this God vs. science lie on repeat. You can tune into stations like CNN on any given night and see religion on the chopping block. Just last night, CNN and other media outlets played footage of President Trump speaking at a prayer breakfast where he actually bragged about how much better he was than Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Apprentice. Viewers watching this can’t help but come to some negative conclusions about religion. The media also intentionally showcase religious people who don’t believe in things like the big bang or evolution, which is contrary to my Catholic faith. You won’t see someone like Bishop Barron, a true champion of our faith invited to their political panels. Why? It’s simple! Bishop Barron would dismantle their agenda to propagate the God vs. science lie. (Check out his videos on YouTube!) I can’t help but question the satanic influence at work in the media.

It’s apparently having an impact. According to data out of the Pew Research Center, 1 in 3 Americans claims to have no religious affiliation. We’ve even created a name for them, the religious nones. The non-religious might applaud this. But when you take our faith out of the culture, you change it completely. Even Nietzsche realized that. It’s time to debunk the myth that science and religion collide. In truth, they are not competitors. They are companions.

 

It’s Time for a New Resolution

Standard

happy-new-year-2017-latest-wallpapers-with-text-messages

As we journey our way through 2017 more and more of our well-intentioned new year’s resolutions will inevitably fall by the wayside. We start each new year full of fervor for change. This will be the year that we’ll quit smoking, lose weight, save money, get organized, exercise, travel, eat healthier and so forth. We also know these types of resolutions are often short lived. Soon enough old habits resurface.

The resolutions are not bad in themselves. The problem is that they will remain nothing more than dreams unless we repair the inner core of our being first. We’re all in need of a spiritual makeover. For this, we need a new kind of resolution. There’s not a one size fits all spiritual resolution for everyone. We all have the opportunity to carve out a new year’s resolution that fits our personal, unique spiritual walk thanks to the grace of God.

Let’s begin by asking our most Divine Surgeon to heal our hearts. Most of us recognize that the human heart is in need of some repair. This has been the case for ages. Salvation history recounts the stories of lots of people with hardened hearts who turned away from the Lord. We’re no different. We’re so busy marveling at our technological gadgets and advancements that we fail to recognize the SOS distress signal from out hearts. Our hearts are wired for God, not for the next iPhone.

Secular society tries to lure us with the latest this or that. Our dopamine-addicted brains can never get enough and we find ourselves making new year’s resolutions to make more money and lose a few pounds. Subconsciously, we’ve been trained to desire a life of shopping until we drop and looking like the supermodels in the latest Victoria’s Secret bra. Our hearts have indeed taken a back seat. We need to bring it to the forefront again. The God of the universe looks at our hearts.

In the Old Testament, after King Saul was rejected as king, the Lord sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel took one look at Jesse’s oldest son Eliab and assumed he must be the one. “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart’ (1 Sam 16: 7). What does God see when He looks upon our hearts? That my friends is what truly matters in this world. Build a heart that is pleasing to the Lord for nothing else matters in the end.

So no matter what resolutions we make in 2017, let’s remember to include our hearts in the equation. You can ask for a new or better heart at any point. It doesn’t matter where you’re at on the path. Our hearts can always be improved or mended by our most merciful Lord. He is calling us to His operating table. “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart” (Dt. 30:6). Trust in Him.

The Antidote to Doubt

Standard

feast-saint-michael

Who do we listen to?  A plethora of voices is constantly buzzing through our minds. I call it societal noise pollution; the corrupt advertisers, biased political pundits, plastic celebrities and so forth. As a sociologist, I understand all too well the influence the larger society has on us. Studies show we’re exposed to about 3,000 ads a day. Only 8% of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind while the rest is worked and reworked deep within the recesses of the brain. So unless we’re living life as a recluse, we need to own up to the fact that we’re influenced by secular society. How can we counteract this?

The most damaging by-product of societal noise is that it often results in self-doubt. When that occurs we’re acting counter to God’s plan for us. God brought each of us to this particular time and space to serve a mission. That mission is to serve other people and the kingdom of God to the best of our abilities in ways that are unique to each of us. Self-doubt cuts us off from this mission. It cuts us off from God. We become servants of the devil instead.

We all have something special to offer to this world. What is your special talent or gift? When you find it, be careful. That’s when the devil kicks into overdrive to do everything in his power to convince you otherwise. The voices in your head start whispering things like, “You aren’t good enough,” “Other people are so much better at it than you,” “You’ll never make any money doing that.” As a result, your gift to the world from God slips into a distant memory.

Saint Michael the Archangel is the antidote. Lucifer, a seraphim or higher ranking angel tried to convince Saint Michael to join his rebellion against God. Lucifer said, non serviam or I will not serve. Saint Michael responded, Mikhael meaning Who is like God? In the ensuing cosmic battle, Saint Michael defeated Lucifer and him along with his band of bad angels fell from heaven. Lucifer has never gotten over the defeat. Today this prince of darkness likes to spend his time filling our mind with doubts. Anything to take us away from our Godly mission.

So who will we listen to? Salvation history is filled with examples of the Jewish people not listening to God. They kept getting ensnared by the pagan cultures surrounding them. They were supposed to be a light to the nations but instead got corrupted by them. This is not remote from us today. We are merely continuing this story. The word shema, which means listen is found in many of the prophets. Throughout the ages, the prophets have been telling us to listen to God. To do that we must take the time to detach ourselves from the secular world around us. Take time to read scripture every day and sit in silence to listen to the God of the universe. And next time you find yourself doubting your special gift from God, just say, “Mikhael!” Who is like God?  That will be your oath to God that you will serve Him and Him alone.